We’re celebrating World Kidney Day (14 March) by supporting NHS Blood and Transplant’s call for more people to consider making a life-transforming donation.

139 people in London have received a kidney transplant from a stranger in the last five years thanks to someone they didn’t know donating altruistically while they are still alive as part of the UK Kidney Sharing Scheme.

The scheme – which celebrates its 1000th transplant this week – started in April 2007 because many ‘difficult to match’ patients had friends and family who wanted to donate a kidney but weren’t a compatible match by blood group or tissue type.

This was the case last year, when Susanne Blackman donated one of her kidneys to a stranger through the national kidney sharing scheme after she found out she wasn’t a match to donate a kidney to her seriously ill daughter, Carri Gardener.

This in turn meant that Carri, who was diagnosed with a rare and incurable kidney disease called focal segmental glomerulosclerosis in 2011, then also received a kidney from a stranger through the same scheme.

Both Carri and Susanne underwent their surgeries at St George’s in September 2018. You can read their full story here.

Mr Abbas Ghazanfar, Consultant Transplant Surgeon and Surgical Lead at St George’s, said: “We are committed to provide excellent care of our patients who suffer from renal failure. This is not possible without support of hundreds of families who donate organs of their loved ones, live donors who come to help their families and friends by donating their organs and many altruistic donors who support live donor programme. St George’s has performed more transplants than ever before last year and we are committed to increase the number with quality results.”

The scheme can match pairs in either two or three-way swaps or in ‘chains’ of up to three transplants, triggered by a non-directed altruistic kidney donor which is where someone volunteers to donate a kidney to someone they don’t know. In 2018, 48% of non-directed altruistic donations formed part of a chain in the scheme compared to just 30% in 2017.

If the patient enters the sharing scheme with their friend or family member, the pair may be matched with another couple in the scheme so that each recipient receives a kidney from the other’s friend or family member. This kidney exchange programme increases the number of people who can receive transplants from living kidney donors and the opportunities for patients who wait a long time for a transplant.

Lisa Burnapp, NHS Blood and Transplant Lead Nurse for Kidney Donation, said: “Non-directed altruistic donors really are the game changers in the kidney sharing scheme. Particularly for the difficult to transplant patients, they make the world of difference.

“Living donation has been a major success story for the UK, with one in three patients receiving a kidney transplant from a living donor. So, the more non-directed altruistic donors we have kicking off a chain means there are potentially three times as many transplants possible.”

In the UK, living kidney transplants have been performed since 1960. There are currently 1134 people waiting for a kidney in London and 263 people have died on the transplant waiting list waiting for a kidney in the last five years.

Find out more about the scheme and about organ donation more generally via NHS Blood and Transplant here.


Image credit: Carri Gardener

Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Pippa Harper, Media Manager at St George’s via philippa.harper@stgeorges.nhs.uk or 020 8266 6128.